Message

Error
  • Table './litlover_jo151/gztn_jxlabels_maps' is marked as crashed and should be repaired SQL=SELECT l.label_id, l.title, l.alias FROM gztn_jxlabels_labels AS l LEFT JOIN gztn_jxlabels_maps AS m ON m.label_id = l.label_id WHERE l.state = 1 AND m.item_id = 841 AND m.type_id = 1 AND l.access <= 0 ORDER BY l.ordering ASC
guide_841.jpg

Reader (Schlink)

The Reader
Bernhard Schlink, 1995
Knopf Doubleday
224 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780307473462

Summary
The Reader is both a literary surprise and a moral challenge: a riveting, provocative, and deeply moving novel about a young boy's erotic awakening in a passionate, clandestine love affair with an older woman, and what happens to them both when the secrets in her past are revealed.

Fifteen-year-old Michael Berg becomes ill on the way home from school. A woman takes care of him. Later, the boy arrives at her home with a bunch of flowers to thank her. And then comes back again. Hanna is the first woman he has ever desired. But there is something slightly off-key about her. His questions about her family and her life go unanswered. One day Hanna simply disappears.

Michael's life goes on, but he can't forget her. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved so passionately is a criminal. Much about her behavior during the trial makes no sense. But then, suddenly and terribly, it does — Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret. As the past erupts into the present — both Michael's past with Hanna, and the past of Germany itself — Michael must accept that he will never be free of either of them. (From the publisher.)

The 2008 film version of The Reader stars Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.



Author Bio
Birth—July 6, 1944
Where—Bielefeld, Germany
Awards—Hans Fallada Prize (Italy); Prix Laure Bataillon
  (France); Glauser Prize (Germany) 
Currently—New York, New York


Bernhard Schlink is the author of the internationally best selling novel The Reader and of four crime novels, The Gordian Knot, Self Deception, Self-Administered Justice, and Self Slaughter, which are currently being translated into English. He is a professor at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, in New York. (From the publisher.)

More
Bernhard Schlink is a German writer with a legal background. He became a judge at the Constitutional Court of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1988 and is a professor for public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany as of January 2006.

His career as a writer began with several detective novels with a main character named Selb—a play on the German word for "self"— (the first, Self's Punishment, co-written with Walter Popp is available in the UK). One of these, Die gordische Schleife, won the Glauser Prize in 1989.

In 1995 he published The Reader (Der Vorleser), a partly autobiographical novel about a teenager who has an affair with a woman in her thirties who suddenly vanishes but whom he meets again as a law student when visiting a trial about war crimes. The book became a bestseller both in Germany and the United States and was translated into 39 languages.

The Reader, translated by Carol Brown Janeway, was the first German book to reach the number one position in the New York Times bestseller list. In 1997 it won the Hans Fallada Prize, an Italian literary award, and the Prix Laure Bataillon for works translated into French. In 1999 it was awarded the "WELT - Literaturpreis" of the newspaper Die Welt. In 2000, Schlink published a collection of short fiction called Flights of Love.

In 2010, Schlink published The Weekend, about a pardoned German terrorist from the late 1960's, who meets with old friends and comrades in a weekend country house to recall old times. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews;
A counterpointing of two stories, or a story and a history, of victim and victimizer, culpability and disavowal, indictment and extenuation...Bernhard Schlink has taken on a grievously formidable subject.... We praise books that, as we say, make us think. The Reader makes us think...about things we would rather not think about, issues which the book leaves open and we might wish to have closed one way or another.
D. J. Enright - The New York Review of Books


A formally beautiful, disturbing and finally morally devastating novel. From the first page, [The Reader] enshares both heart and mind.
Los Angeles Times


Another in the spate of soul-searching post-Holocaust German novels that have made their way here, this elegant if derivative triptych chronicles the relationship of narrator Michael Berg, a young bourgeois man who becomes a legal historian, with working-class Hanna Schmitz, 20 years his senior and (as it turns out) a former SS officer. They meet in the 1950s, when he is 15: she rescues him when he falls ill in the street from the effects of hepatitis. His thank-you visit results in months of trysts; the lovers develop a routine that involves Michael reading aloud from the German classics. Part Two opens at Hanna's trial 10 years later for war crimes: assigned by chance to observe the trial, Michael continues his strange role as her reader, sending her tapes in prison until, in Part Three, the two finally, and tragically, meet again. Some readers may object to Schlink's insistently withheld moral judgments: he never treats Hanna as just a villain. Yet this well-translated novel indisputably offers a philosophical look at the 'numbness' that settled over German culture during the war and that (Schlink seems to say) infects it to this day.
Publishers Weekly


After falling ill on the street in the German town where he lives, 15-year-old Michael is helped by a woman named Hanna. When he returns to her apartment to thank her several months later, he begins a passionate love affair with her. In time, she demands that he read aloud to her before they make love, and they essay some of Germany's and the world's great literature together. One day, however, Hanna disappears without saying farewell, and Michael grieves and believes it to be his fault. He finds her again years later when, as a law student, he encounters her as the defendant in a court case. To reveal more of the plot would be unfair, but this very readable novel by German author Schlink probes the nature of love, guilt, and responsibility while painting a sympathetic portrait of Michael and an achingly complex picture of Hanna. —Towson State University, MD
Michael T. O'Pecko - Library Journal


A compact portrayal of a teenaged German boy's love affair with an emotionally remote older woman, and the troubled consequence of his discovery of who she really is and why she simultaneously needed him and rejected him. Seven years after their intimacy, university student Michael Berg accidentally learns that (now) 40ish Hannah Schmitz had concealed from him a past that reaches back to Auschwitz and had burdened her with nightmares from which her young lover was powerless to awaken her. Toward its climax, the novel becomes, fitfully, frustratingly abstract, but on balance this is a gripping psychological study that moves skillfully toward its surprising and moving conclusion.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. At what point does the significance of the book's title become clear to you? Who is "The Reader"? Are there others in the story with an equally compelling claim to this role?

2. When does the difference in social class between Hanna and Michael become most clear and painful? Why does Hanna feel uncomfortable staying overnight in Michael's house? Is Hanna angry about her lack of education?

3. Why is the sense of smell so important in this story? What is it about Hanna that so strongly provokes the boy's desire? If Hanna represents "an invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body" [p. 16], why is she the only woman Michael seems able to love?

4. One reviewer has pointed out that "learning that the love of your life used to be a concentration camp guard is not part of the American baby-boomer experience." [Suzanna Ruta, New York Times Book Review, July 27, 1997: 8] Is The Reader's central theme—love and betrayal between generations—particular to Germany, given the uniqueness of German history? Is there anything roughly parallel to it in the American experience?

5. In a novel so suffused with guilt, how is Michael guilty? Does his narrative serve as a way of putting himself on trial? What verdict does he reach? Is he asking readers to examine the evidence he presents and to condemn him or exonerate him? Or has he already condemned himself?

6. When Michael consults his father about Hanna's trial, does his father give him good advice? Why does Michael not act upon this advice? Is the father deserving of the son's scorn and disappointment? Is Michael's love for Hanna meant, in part, to be an allegory for his generation'simplication in their parents' guilt?

7. Do you agree with Michael's judgment that Hanna was sympathetic with the prisoners she chose to read to her, and that she wanted their final month of life to be bearable? Or do you see Hanna in a darker light: do the testimonies about her cruelty and sadism ring true?

8. Asked to explain why she didn't let the women out of the burning church, Hanna remembers being urgently concerned with the need to keep order. What is missing in her reasoning process? Are you surprised at her responses to the judge's attempt to prompt her into offering self-defense as an excuse?

9. Why does Hanna twice ask the judge, "what would you have done?" Is the judge sympathetic toward Hanna? What is she trying to communicate in the moment when she turns and looks directly at him?

10. Why does Michael visit the concentration camp at Struthof? What is he seeking? What does he find instead?

11. Michael comments that Enlightenment law (the foundation of the American legal system as well as the German one) was "based on the belief that a good order is intrinsic to the world" [p. 181]. How does his experience with Hanna's trial influence Michael's view of history and of law?

12. What do you think of Michael's decision to send Hanna the tapes? He notices that the books he has chosen to read aloud "testify to a great and fundamental confidence in bourgeois culture" [p. 185]. Does the story of Hanna belie this faith? Would familiarity with the literature she later reads have made any difference in her willingness to collaborate in Hitler's regime?

13. One might argue that Hanna didn't willfully collaborate with Hitler's genocide and that her decisions were driven only by a desire to hide her secret. Does this view exonerate Hanna in any way? Are there any mitigating circumstances in her case? How would you have argued for her, if you were a lawyer working in her defense?

14. Do you agree with the judgment of the concentration camp survivor to whom Michael delivers Hanna's money at the end of the novel? Why does she accept the tea tin, but not the money? Who knew Hanna better--Michael or this woman? Has Michael been deluded by his love? Is he another of Hanna's victims?

15. Why does Hanna do what she does at the end of the novel? Does her admission that the dead "came every night, whether I wanted them or not" [pp. 198-99] imply that she suffered for her crimes? Is complicity in the crimes of the Holocaust an unforgivable sin?

16. How does this novel leave you feeling and thinking? Is it hopeful or ultimately despairing? If you have read other Holocaust literature, how does The Reader compare?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

top of page

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2014